During the Northern and Southern Dynasties periods, authors composed many short writings that related a type of matter or event that they called “strange.” There were the accounts of strange concerned marvelous objects from foreign places, the wonderful feats of magicians and alchemists, event involved meetings between humans and ghost. These accounts are called in Chinese zhiguai or “accounts of the strange.” As the most important early example of the zhiguai genre, the book Sou shen ji (In Search of the Supernatural: Written Record) is a 4th century CE Chinese compilation of legends, short stories and hearsay concerning spirits, ghosts and other supernatural phenomena. Although the authorship of the book is not made explicit in the text, it is comely believed to be compiled by Gan Bao, a historian at the court of Emperor Yuan of Jin in 350 AD. The book consists of 464 stories in 20 rolls.
The Zhiguai narratives are the early period of Chinese novel development. Most of the stories have rather short plot; The characters are lack of delicate writing and specific description. Zhiguai’s writing is rather childish in various aspects compared with later novels. For instance the following story is a typical short story in Sou shen ji:
Hairy Tortoise and Horned Hare
In the time of Chou* of Shang, the giant tortoise grew hair and the hare grew horns—signs that armor would soon arise
*The bad last king of Shang
Of course, there are certain exceptions which contain all the essential characters of later novels. For instance, the following one contains specific description of the plot:
The Escort Commandant
Xin Daodu, from Longxi Commandery, was travelling to further his education, and arrived at a place about four or five li away ...
... middle of paper ...
...l: The Written Record. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1996. Print
Grigg, Hugh. "Soushenji No. 395 Translation: The Escort Commandant (搜神记三九五)." East Asia Student. N.p., 17 Nov. 2010. Web. 05 Dec. 2013.
Juan, Qin. "Queer Novels in the Wei-and-Jin Period and Northern & Southern Dynasties:Images of Monsters and Their Cultural Connotations." CNKI. N.p., Mar. 2008.
Lu, Xun. Zhongguo Xiao Shuo De Li Shi De Bian Qian. Xianggang: Jin Dai Tu Shu Gong Si, 1964. Print
St. André, James. "Démons Et Merveilles Dans La Littérature Chinoise Des Six Dynasties: Le Fantastique Et L'anecdotique Dans Le Soushen Ji De Gan Bao. By Rémi Mathieu. Pp. 163. Paris, Editions You-Feng, 2000." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 11.02 (2001): n. pag. Print.
Tao, Qian, Tang He, and Mo Wang. Sou Shen Hou Ji: 2 Juan. China: S.n., 1791. Print.